‘In no hospital in New York will a woman be forced to be alone when she gives birth’, says Governor Andrew Cuomo. ‘Not now, not ever’.
In response to two of the New York City’s largest hospital system, New York –Presbyterian and Mount Sinai, banning support people for women in labor during the coronavirus pandemic, support people for women in labor during the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo announced an executive order mandating the hospitals allow partners in delivery rooms. According to the directive, mothers-to-be can have one support person – including a spouse, partner, family member of doula – with them throughout labor and delivery.
The announcement is a huge relief for expecting parents, doulas, and midwives. ‘This is a major victory for maternal health’, says Jesse Pournaras, the Brooklyn – based doula who created a petition urging Cuomo to safeguard the fundamental right of all laboring individuals that has received over 600,000 signatures. As Pournaras laid out in the call to action, a support person is essential to care for a patient during labor-and risk would increase substantially without one.
Research shows that women who receive adequate social support during labor tend on average to have shorter labors, to control their pain better, and to have less need for medical intervention.
‘Continuous support means having a person with you the entire time, and nurses cannot be that person because they are, by definition of their job, incapable of spending 100% of the time in the room with you’, explains Pournaras. ‘For people don’t have continuous support, trauma, interventions, and a feeling of being dissatisfied with your birth process are all more likely. Collectively, this can increase the burden on our very overtopped hospital system, especially in this crisis’.
A partner of chosen family member also offers all-important emotional support. ‘Having a loved one there is going to help you feel more relaxed’, says Erica Chidi Cohen, doula, author, and cofounder and CEO of Loom. ‘Being alone in a hospital room doing something as psychologically intense as birth without someone that you can really learn into on rely on is a really hard position to be in. it lays the groundwork for trauma, whether or not you have a hard or challenging birth experience. Even if it’s smooth birth, that lack of anchorage through family or doula, it’s really hard. We’re not supposed to deliver without that support is especially crucial for black women, who are up five time more likely than white women to experience a pregnancy – related death. ‘Given the outcomes for us in terms of maternal mortality, having someone there to advocate on their behalf is so, so important’, says Cohen.
The scare reality of the COVID -19 pandemic is that it’s a changing situation, and there’s no telling what’s on the horizon. As Cohen points out, being prepared for all scenarios is the best strategy to ensure the healthies outcome. ‘We need to embrace that fact that this is insane and not what you envisioned-let that be present’, Cohen advises pregnant women navigating uncharted territory in the time of COVID-19. ‘Knowing how quickly these rules can change, it’s really key to have a virtual support plan in place so that you know, no matter what, you will have a semblance of support and community in place’. But Pournaras hopes that in terms of prioritizing maternal health, New York City can act as an example for the rest of the U.S. ‘I really hope that this order does set a precedent around our country for any communities that are going through an influx COVID-19 patients’, she says. ‘New York state has committed to maternal health and I really hope that commitment is adopted across the board so that no one in any community has to fight these same types of policies’.
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